If you were to look at their back profiles – two men with almost the same height, the exact same shade of chestnut brown hair cropped in similar hairstyles – I wouldn’t blame you for mistaking one for the other.
The physical similarities, both in terms of body build and facial features, practically erase the almost six years of age difference. There are slight differences of course; Juan, who recently turned 28 has clear blue eyes, the kind that some days look more grey than blue, like the color of the frozen lake in Dresden. Fran, at the age of 22, has broader shoulders and is just that bit bigger in size, with eyes as brown as his hair.
Yet these small details aside, both of them can almost pass for one another, as our building’s doorman has often attested.
Looks-wise aside, these two brothers, as happens with most siblings, also have other similarities.
Both of them also have the same gait when they walk; they have a mutual love for cars, and “Too Fast Too Furious”, as well as the same passion for dancing, the sort of love that manifests in them moving to the beat when a favorite song comes on the radio. And mostly, each of them has a common love and respect for the other, a very important point indeed.
Now that Juan and I have moved out to our own apartment, and they don’t see each other daily as was the case before, Fran pops by our place once or twice a week, just to chill by the pool or watch the latest downloaded episode of “Homeland”. It’s nice watching the two of them interact, to see that the strong brotherly bond is still there despite distance or age.
Once in a while, Fran also stays for dinner, and he eats whatever we’re cooking that day.
About two weeks ago, when we’d just put up golden bells on our Christmas tree and the string of lights had just been hung along the railings in the balcony, Fran asked us if he could come over for dinner – it was a Friday, and he was home alone. “Definitely!” was our answer and not long after he arrived.
Dinner that day was simple; we put some beef patties on the grill and made quick hamburgers with sesame-seed buns, tomatoes and lettuce. Along with these burgers, I’d prepared some baked zucchini fries for company.
The oven is a magical kitchen instrument, and after I realized one year ago that the oven had the ability to make so many things turn crispy and toasty and crusty, I’ve been constantly exploring the new foods that I can make with the oven, such as these baked zucchini fries.
While the words “baked” and “fries” aren’t often used together in a logical sentence, these fries made absolute sense.
These were made of fresh zucchini cut into small sticks the size of thick french fries, then dipped into egg whites that had been seasoned with salt and pepper, and then later coated generously with bread crumbs. And these were crispy vegetable fries that turned golden brown after half an hour or so in the oven, which I’d somehow decided to turn on despite the ridiculously hot summer heat.
I served the fries with a homemade marinara sauce; one that consisted of diced carrots, onions and garlic sauteed until the vegetables had yielded and became soft, after which they simmered in tomato puree and white wine, bubbling gently until what remained in the pan was a thick, red, concentrated sauce, rich in flavors salty and sweet.
If you’re like me and want to try fries that aren’t made of potatoes, and want something similar to ketchup but even better, homemade, then this is a good side dish to try. Maybe you might even like it as much as Fran did!
For the Baked Zucchini Fries:
1) 2 medium zucchini, sliced into sticks
2) 1 large egg white
3) ⅓ cup plain bread crumbs
4) cooking spray
5) 1 teaspoons dried thyme
6) salt and fresh pepper
For marinara sauce:
7) 1 small onion, diced
8) 1 small garlic clove, minced
9) 1 small carrot, minced, processed
10) 1 cup tomato puree
11) ½ cup dry white wine
1) Beat the egg whites and season with salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs and dried thyme together and place in another bowl. Grease a baking sheet with a little oil or cooking spray. Pre-heat oven to 400 deg Fahrenheit (200 deg cel).
2) Dip the zucchini sticks into the egg mixture then coat with the bread crumb mixture, a few at a time. Shake off any excess bread crumbs. Place the breaded zucchini in a single layer and spray more cooking spray on top.
3) Bake at 30 – 35 minutes, or until golden brown.
4) While zucchini fries are baking, saute diced onion, garlic, carrot in a bit of oil until veggies are soft
5) Pour the tomato puree and wine over, mix well and let simmer for 20 minutes
6) Season with salt and pepper
7) Serve zucchini fries with some marinara sauce for dipping.